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Gambierdiscus toxicus NOAA.png
Gambierdiscus toxicus
Scientific classification e
Clade: SAR
Infrakingdom: Alveolata
Phylum: Myzozoa
Superclass: Dinoflagellata
Class: Dinophyceae
Order: Gonyaulacales
Family: Ostreopsidaceae
Genus: Gambierdiscus
Adachi & Fukuyo, 1979

See text

Gambierdiscus is a genus of marine dinoflagellates that produce ciguatoxins, a type of toxin that causes the foodborne illness known as ciguatera.[1] They are usually epiphytic on macroalgae growing on coral reefs.[2]


Gambierdiscus cells generally have a lenticular shape with a depression on the ventral side of the cell, from where the two dissimilar flagella arise.[2] Gambierdiscus cells have an orange to brown colour due to the assessory pigments peridinin, diadinoxanthin and dinoxanthin.[3]


The marine dinoflagellate genus Gambierdiscus occurs globally in tropic and subtropic regions. It mainly grows attached to macroalgae and coralline turfalgae. Thus, it does not form visible surface blooms like many other harmful dinoflagellate species (red tides). A decrease in coral reefs due to bleaching, pollution or overfishing usually facilitates the growth of macroalgae, which can cause spreading of this epiphytic dinoflagellate genus.


Several Gambierdicus species produce potent toxin such as ciguatoxin and maitotoxin, which cause ciguatera fish poisoning.[4] Humans often consume the toxins, as herbivorous fish, which feed on macroalgae, ingest the dinoflagellates. Afterwards, carnivorous fish, which are targeted by fishing industries, move the toxins further up the food chain. Ciguatera is the most common form of seafood poisoning caused by harmful algal blooms in the world and its incidences and range appear to spread. Best estimates indicate that more than 50,000 people are globally affected every year. Currently, G. polynesiensis, G. excentricus and G. silvae are recognized as being highly toxic, but ongoing and future research might identify more toxic metabolites in other species.

Predictions of ciguatera outbreaks are very challenging, as toxin profiles differ a lot between different species.[5] Additionally, our knowledge about the species diversity of Gambierdiscus is limited and the number of described Gambierdiscus species increases every year. Furthermore, toxin production of each species varies significantly over time and space due to changes in environmental conditions like nutrient concentrations and sea surface temperature.[6] An increase in sea surface temperature in the future might cause spreading of Gambierdiscus species further towards the poles and result in more cases of ciguatera fish poisoning.


The genus Gambierdiscus contains the following species:


  1. ^ Litaker, R. Wayne; Vandersea, Mark W.; Faust, Maria A.; Kibler, Steven R.; Nau, Amy W.; Holland, William C.; Chinain, Mireille; Holmes, Michael J.; Tester, Patricia A. (2010). "Global distribution of ciguatera causing dinoflagellates in the genus Gambierdiscus". Toxicon. 56 (5): 711–730. doi:10.1016/j.toxicon.2010.05.017. ISSN 0041-0101. PMID 20561539.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Litaker, R. Wayne; Vandersea, Mark W.; Faust, Maria A.; Kibler, Steven R.; Chinain, Mireille; Holmes, Michael J.; Holland, William C.; Tester, Patricia A. (2009). "Taxonomy of Gambierdiscus including four new species, Gambierdiscus caribaeus, Gambierdiscus carolinianus, Gambierdiscus carpenteri and Gambierdiscus ruetzleri (Gonyaulacales, Dinophyceae)". Phycologia. 48 (5): 344–390. doi:10.2216/07-15.1. ISSN 0031-8884.
  3. ^ Indelicato, Stephen R.; Watson, David A. (1986). "Identification of the photosynthetic pigments of the benthic dinoflagellate Gambierdiscus toxicus". Marine Fisheries Review. 48 (4): 44–47.
  4. ^ Van Dolah, F M (March 2000). "Marine algal toxins: origins, health effects, and their increased occurrence". Environmental Health Perspectives. 108 (Suppl 1): 133–141. doi:10.1289/ehp.00108s1133. ISSN 0091-6765. PMC 1637787. PMID 10698729.
  5. ^ Parsons, Michael L.; Aligizaki, Katerina; Bottein, Marie-Yasmine Dechraoui; Fraga, Santiago; Morton, Steve L.; Penna, Antonella; Rhodes, Lesley (2012). "Gambierdiscus and Ostreopsis: Reassessment of the state of knowledge of their taxonomy, geography, ecophysiology, and toxicology". Harmful Algae. 14: 107–129. doi:10.1016/j.hal.2011.10.017.
  6. ^ Parsons, Michael L.; Settlemier, Chelsie J.; Bienfang, Paul K. (2010-11-01). "A simple model capable of simulating the population dynamics of Gambierdiscus, the benthic dinoflagellate responsible for ciguatera fish poisoning". Harmful Algae. 10 (1): 71–80. doi:10.1016/j.hal.2010.07.002.
  7. ^ a b c Chinain, Mireille; Faust, Maria A.; Pauillac, Serge (1999). "Morphology and molecular analyses of three toxic species of Gambierdiscus (Dinophyceae): G. pacificus, sp. nov., G. australes, sp. nov., and G. polynesiensis, sp. nov". Journal of Phycology. 35 (6): 1282–1296. doi:10.1046/j.1529-8817.1999.3561282.x. ISSN 0022-3646.
  8. ^ Kretzschmar, Anna Liza; Verma, Arjun; Harwood, Tim; Hoppenrath, Mona; Murray, Shauna; DeClerck, O. (2017). "Characterization of Gambierdiscus lapillus sp. nov. (Gonyaulacales, Dinophyceae): a new toxic dinoflagellate from the Great Barrier Reef (Australia)". Journal of Phycology. 53 (2): 283–297. doi:10.1111/jpy.12496. ISSN 0022-3646. PMID 27885668.
  9. ^ Fraga, Santiago; Rodríguez, Francisco (2014). "Genus Gambierdiscus in the Canary Islands (NE Atlantic Ocean) with Description of Gambierdiscus silvae sp. nov., a New Potentially Toxic Epiphytic Benthic Dinoflagellate". Protist. 165 (6): 839–853. doi:10.1016/j.protis.2014.09.003. ISSN 1434-4610. PMID 25460234.

Data related to Gambierdiscus at Wikispecies